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ENVIRONMENT

EPA Disregards Own Scientists On Asbestos Ban

Derelict building full of asbestos. (Photo: Will Fisher)
Derelict building full of asbestos. (Photo: Will Fisher)

“It’s really unprecedented for political leaders to fail to pay attention to any of the scientists in either regional offices or headquarters.”

The New York Times released a report Wednesday revealing EPA officials disregarded the recommendations of their own scientists when issuing a rule that restricts Asbestos use but does not ban it.

Asbestos is a mineral used in construction for its heat-resistance and fiber strength, but it has been proven to be carcinogenic and is now banned in most industrialized countries. The World Health Organization states, “all types of asbestos cause lung cancer, mesothelioma, cancer of the larynx and ovary, and asbestosis (fibrosis of the lungs),” and the “legacy effects” of asbestos contamination can last for years, according to agency experts.

The internal memos revealed by the New York Times show direct guidance to outright ban the chemical:

“Rather than allow for (even with restrictions) any new uses for asbestos, EPA should seek to ban all new uses of asbestos because the extreme harm from this chemical substance outweighs any benefit—and because there are adequate alternatives to asbestos.”

The ruling continues a trend of environmental deregulation under the Trump administration. With former fossil fuel lobbyists at the head of the Environmental Protection Agency and Department of the Interior, as well as former DowDuPont employees in the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), critics are concerned corporate profits are being prioritized above the public health.

“It’s really unprecedented for political leaders to fail to pay attention to any of the scientists in either regional offices or headquarters,” said Betsy Southerland, former director of science and technology in the EPA department responsible for water.

The EPA has also recently weakened regulations to clean groundwater pollution from toxic chemicals, diminished a ban on a deadly chemical in paint strippers, and rejected a ban on chlorpyrifos, a pesticide that has been linked to brain damage in children. On Wednesday, California defied the Trump EPA by banning chlorpyrifos, spurring the ire of DowDuPont.

According to DowDuPont spokesman Gregg Schmidt, the company is now “evaluating all options to challenge” California’s ban, arguing that eliminating chlorpyrifos would “remove an important tool for farmers and undermines the highly effective system for regulating pesticides that has been in place at the federal level and in the state of California for decades.”

Dow CEO Andrew Liveris donated a million dollars to President Trump’s inauguration fund, and was chosen to lead the president’s manufacturing counsel before it was disbanded after several members resigned in protest of President Trump’s equivocal response to racist violence in Charlottesville.

Several DowDuPont employees are assigned to high positions in the president’s cabinet, such as former Dow lobbyist Ted McKinney, the USDA undersecretary for trade, Ken Isley, the head of the Foreign Agricultural Service, and Scott Hutchins, a deputy undersecretary at the USDA.

 

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Peter Castagno

Peter Castagno is a freelance writer with a Master’s degree in International Conflict Resolution. He has traveled throughout the Middle East and Latin America to gain firsthand insight in some of the world’s most troubled areas, and he plans on publishing his first book in 2019.

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